United Kingdom. New Forest coastal defence could cost tax hike
RESIDENTS may have to pay more council tax to get coastal defences built near their homes, under a new strategy.
New Forest District Council has 60 km of coastline, extending from Chewton Bunny, Christchurch Bay in the west to Redbridge, Southampton Water in the east; this also includes approximately 9km of the lower reaches of the Beaulieu and Lymington Rivers within the Western Solent. This stretch of coastline has a wide range of geologically and geomorphologically important features that include soft cliffs, spits and barrier beaches, saltmarshes and mudflats. These dynamically evolving environments are also of international importance for nature conservation.
Increasing the annual bill is one of the funding sources identified by New Forest District Council in a new shoreline protection plan which also set out the priority areas for attention.
It has been drawn up in response to the government making less money available for lower-priority schemes. Councils must now try to involve other groups and match-fund the cash they need from Whitehall.
Other ways of raising the money include borrowing or asking for finance from town and parish councils, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the National Lottery or the private sector, such as tourist firms. Government bodies like the Environment Agency could also be approached.
Of three local priorities, the first is a single package to reduce coastal flood risk between Milford and Lymington, including the embankment, and management of Hurst Spit which has been declining since the last major recharge of shingle in 1997.
The second scheme is at Barton to build on a £300,000 research programme in 2012/13 to investigate the stability of the cliffs and options to stall the erosion.
The third is specifically for Milford seafront to tackle coastal flooding and erosion.
The strategy was approved at a meeting of NFDC’s Conservative-ruling cabinet, where the changes were welcomed by Cllr Alison Hoare, the member for environment and regulatory services.
She said: “I think this change has occurred to enable more projects to take place across the country and allow the money to be more evenly divided.
“What’s good about the news is that, first of all, the council has to show commitment. We have to show match-funding for any project and have the support of town and parish councils and the community.
“That’s non-negotiable and very important. We have to work together on this important subject.
“We want to be resilient to coastal erosion and ensure our communities are protected from coastal change.”
The New Forest shoreline runs for about 40 miles and in areas like Milford and Barton is facing the threat of crumbling cliffs and flooding.
As reported in the A&T, some beach hut owners at nearby Hordle Cliff in Milford have been told to remove their huts, and sections of footpath near Barton have dropped into the sea.
Digital Editor Ben Craig grew up in the New Forest and started working for the A&T in 2002. He covers Hampshire county and New Forest district councils, as well as planning and the local angles on Westminster politics.